Robert J. Elisberg

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Robert J. Elisberg

Robert J. Elisberg
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Los Angeles, California,
Birthday
December 31
Bio
Robert J. Elisberg has been a regular contributor to the Huffington Post since 2006. His writing has appeared in such publications as the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily News, and Los Angeles Magazine, and served on the editorial board for the Writers Guild of America. He has contributed political writing to the anthology, "Clued in on Politics," 3rd edition (CQ Press). Born in Chicago, he attended Northwestern University and received his MFA from UCLA, where he was twice awarded the Lucille Ball Award for comedy screenwriting. Most recently, he wrote the comedy-adventure screenplay, “The Wild Roses,” for Callahan Filmworks, and had published his comic novella, "A Christmas Carol 2: The Return of Scrooge."

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OCTOBER 14, 2010 9:50AM

How the Far Right Proves Its Own Arguments Wrong

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The first hint that someone doesn’t have a clue what they’re talking about is when they contradict themselves.  Saying everything, anything, in hopes that something will stick.  It’s like a punch-drunk boxer flailing his arms like a windmill, desperate to hit whatever he can. 

This is what we see when the Far Right and members of the “Tea Party” corporations swing at Barack Obama.  It’s not that the arguments are bizarre – but impossible.  Further, contradicting yourself removes the very argument itself. 

Yet their contradictions mount, because in reality Barack Obama isn’t evil incarnate any more than George W. Bush was – and Mr. Bush got America involved in two wars (one on a lie); collapsed the economy, turned a budget surplus into a $480 billion deficit, and ignored warnings before an “imminent” attack hit U.S. soil.  So, the “accusations” can’t possibly merit the hyperbole – and the proof is the contradictions:

When Barack Obama’s pastor ranted on an old videotape, Republicans demanded how could Mr. Obama, as a member of that Trinity United Church of Christ sit there in church as a good Christian?!  And the same mouths cry that Barack Obama is a Muslim.  Raised a Muslim, schooled in a madrassa as a Muslim, bringing Muslim ideals to America. 

Of course, Barack Obama can’t be a Catholic and a Muslim.  Not possible.  Polar opposites.  Raging enemies.  Killed each other for centuries during the Crusades.  To charge both refutes the argument of either.  Which demonstrably shows that the Far Right doesn’t have the vaguest notion what it’s talking about.

And another windmill:  “Barack Obama is a Nazi.”  And “Barack Obama is a Socialist.”  Once more, Barack Obama can’t be a Nazi and a Socialist.  Not possible.  Polar opposites.  Raging enemies.  Killed each other during World War II.  Nazis murdered 30 million Russians!!  That the Far Right thinks anyone could be both a Nazi and a Socialist shows again their total cluelessness.  And in contradicting themselves, prove to refute both their arguments.

The contradictions continue (like the fiscal conservative call to eliminate budget deficits and cut taxes).  But there’s a much larger issue.  It can best be demonstrated by an exchange I had with a friend.  It not only shows how contradictions undermine one’s own standards, but more how people self-delude themselves.

My friend is a wonderful fellow.  And once upon a time was liberal.  About 15 years ago, he started becoming conservative.  A few months back, he wrote me –

“I am no policy wonk, I merely read these articles, get so angry with the Far Left that is destroying the country I love, that I immediately forward them.   But I am no writer and debater of all the details.  I just know my basic JFK (my political hero) mantra:  ‘Smaller Government, Strong Military, Lower Taxes.’  The Far Left,” he wrote, “…now stands for everything I detest.”  Later adding, “I voted for Bill Clinton twice and would not change that vote today.”

He wrote on other subjects – blasting President Obama, of course – but it is this above which is of note.  Because riddled with contradiction, it demonstrates the underlying fallacy of all his issues.

If JFK is indeed your personal hero, I wrote back, don't think for a single second that Kennedy would be anything but aghast at what the Republican Party and Far Right has been doing for the last decade.  If you think that your personal hero would say, like you, that he detests the Far Left because it is destroying America, you are seriously mistaken.  Kennedy pushed to start Medicare, created Food Stamps, eased immigration for Latin America, and began the Peace Corps.  If you actually support what John Kennedy stood for, then you are bulldozing those very beliefs by your own entrenched support of the Far Right.  In today's America, Dwight Eisenhower would likely be drummed out of the GOP -- he wrote diatribes against the military-industrial complex and against Republicans who fought Social Security.  Even Richard Nixon might have a hard time getting nominated by Republicans today.  Heavens, he began diplomacy with Red China and started the EPA.  So, to continue to hero worship JFK while embracing the Far Right is a contradiction in terms.  If John Kennedy had a chance to speak with you, I'm sure that he'd make quite clear that his philosophy is far, FAR different than “Smaller Government, Strong Military, Lower Taxes."

And there we have the problem.  This comforting, but delusional belief that one’s hero can be John Kennedy, yet detest Barack Obama – the man most equated to Kennedy, even by JFK’s own brother and daughter.  That you can proudly support Bill Clinton – a man so reviled by the Far Right they impeached him – yet decry “the Far Left” because it is destroying America.  (My friend considers Republican senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins to be Democrats – so, “Far Left” to him is basically anyone to the left of…well, him.)

When you spout diametrically opposed contradictions, you can’t have a supportable foundation to your beliefs.  And that’s what comes when one writes, “I am no policy wonk, I merely read these articles and  get so angry.”

You know “these articles” well.  They rail how Barack Obama is a Socialist-Nazi-Christian-Muslim terrorist.  He reads them and gets angry.  Angry?  I’m shocked his head doesn’t explode.

Having no supportable foundation to your beliefs is the problem the Far Right has created for itself.  With only thin air to grasp, what breeds is fear and anger.  Fear of another party leading the nation, led by a black man as president.  Anger at losing what you believed yourself entitled to.  And anger and fear at an economy that collapsed under George Bush, at America attacked under George Bush, at two wars started by George Bush.  And fear and anger at knowing all this, but unwilling to blame George Bush as the central cause of your greatest anger and fear.

And so you lash out, throw around vitriol that contradicts itself and cannot be supported, which only makes one angrier.  And anger – getting “so angry” – feeds on itself.  And the anger builds and spins far out of control.

But there’s nothing there.  Except contradictions that refute themselves.  And in the end, it leaves one empty and howling at the moon.
 
 

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They open their mouths!

That seems to be all they have to do.
All true, of course, but pointless if one is trying to "discuss" any of it with a rtwngnut who imagines they are reasonable. You might appreciate my thoughts on the subject:

A Word to the Right
.
And therein lies the problem with modern political debate: "I merely read these articles and get so angry". It will always baffle me how friends of mine who are educated, know history and have kind hearts can click "like" on Facebook for Glen Beck. Sigh.
Every time they speak, it is another lie or misrepresentation. They do stay on task, though! Great post! R
They are crazy like a fox, I'm afraid. Many of their impossible constructions, and historical reconstructions are to fool the populace in the present. That communist/nazi is a great example. A lot of effort has gone into linking Nazi fascism and socialism, and smearing the current administration with it. Look up Jonah Goldberg's book "Liberal Fascism." They try to conflate these terms and fool the Tea Party crowd into believing reconstructed history and fact. They are nihilists. They are the enemies of reason. If they can keep a segment of the middle class believing in this separation scheme, they can reap the benefits. Keep the facts from the people, and they will believe whatever you make them feel. They wont have any other choice.
Russ Feingold, a dedicated and progressive Senator from Wisconsin, is likely to be defeated by a Tea Party opponent who dismisses criticism of his loose grasp on facts by insisting "the details just aren't that important." I'd venture to say the supporters and likely voters might feel the same way.
Yes, it is surprising how even educated and otherwise intelligent people fall into this trap. I heard a doctor telling with regret that the medical students of hers are intellectually not in the same league as the previous generation of doctors. Because before there was no Obamacare, according to her. She did not stop to think that when her current students were choosing their vocation, Obama was not even a senator.
I blame declining quality of education.
The realization is for all that time, it was just one dude, William Frank Buckley, Jr., holding all the hatin' and flag wearin' nut jobs out ... they only had one guy up to it?- yep. His own son bailed when the rats boarded.

"That the Far Right thinks anyone could be both a Nazi and a Socialist shows again their total cluelessness."

Oh, they are much, much more clueless than that ... they literally know nothing at all, an ivory trailer existence on denial river.

Being aware would mean knowing the Buf 'n Blu, Obama's team, has produced Senator(s) including the prez, Congressmen, Admirals, Generals, NFL players, many, many Olympians, several self-made billionaires and many, many more who make this world go around ... and they've been doing it longer than anyone west of the Mississippi- but you will never hear a word of them ... there will be all sorts of books about it once Fearless Leader is out of office ... but thats still 6 years out ...

IMUA
Nice work. You make a number of valid points here.
That chapter in Michael Moore's "Dude, Where's My Country?" comes to mind. The one which surprises the reader.
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I'm surprised that someone who writes as well as you can't see the philosophical thread that connects fascism and socialism on the one hand and Catholics and Muslims on the other. Far from being "polar opposites," these things are all variations on a common theme: the supression of the individual in the service of the collective.
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Thank you for the good sense and clear logic. I once noted in a blog here that, to self-described "conservatives," there does not seem to be anything but the "far" left. When have you seen anyone writing negatively about the left who doesn't describe it as "the far left?" In my understanding of language, "far" implies that there are other intermediate positions. But in this fallacious rhetoric, the pretense is that there is only the "far" left.

Perhaps perpetual histrionic overstatement is also a hint that someone doesn't have a clue what he or she is talking about.
Yet they won the House and will now attempt to cut taxes on the wealthy and repeal health care reform without compromising with the President at all.

What drugs are these people taking?
Glenn Beck is the master at self-contradiction. He does it every day and never seems to notice. Great post!
Did you point out that the top marginal tax rate in 1962 was 91% and the capital gains rate 25%? Not the same tax universe we live in at all.

One of the most disappointing things for me about the past 10 years is realizing that even my really smart friends often do not stop and think through the things they say. Or maybe they never had the ability to stop and question their beliefs in the first place.

Great post!
I'm old enough to remember when Barry Goldwater was considered a right wing nut. Compared to the Palins and Becks stalking the U. S. political landscape today, he seems like a beacon of conservative reason.
I just read the article about America Collapsing. Now, if the American society had hopes for our economy to recover, the tea party with their unsubstantiated and false beliefs is gonna drive America to collapse at a faster rate. This party has just become a cult, and a threat to America
You say: "That the Far Right thinks anyone could be both a Nazi and a Socialist shows again their total cluelessness."

Do you really not know? Nazi = National Socialist. Hitler was a socialist. So was Mussolini (Lenin praised him). All these crackpot totalitarian regimes are mutually antagonistic socialisms.

If you want a right-wing version try Iran.
TrueNorth31416:

Do you really not know? Nazi = National Socialist. Hitler was a socialist. So was Mussolini (Lenin praised him).
-----------------------------------
Brilliant! You demonstrate the OPs point wonderfully. Thanks for the good laugh!
"I merely read these articles..."

In other words: "I am ignorant of the facts, and feel no need to educate myself. Instead I'll believe the falsehoods of pundits and disregard logic and reason."
So your one conservative friend is incoherent in his arguments. That hardly invalidates decades of well-founded conservative thought in America. I see a lot of name-dropping here (JFK, Eisenhower, Clinton) and dismay at the convenient labels that get tossed around in the popular media. A little de rigueur Bush-blaming. Other than that, not much to see here.
Your thinking is along the right lines, but your arguments are very weak. For example, it may well be different groups of right wing haters who are calling Obama a muslim and a poor Christian (not Catholic, by the way). You also need to explain why the "z" in Nazi comes from Nationalsozialismus, National Socialism. See? It's even got socialism in the name!
I understand you, my friend, and I have also wrestled with this. Crazy , angry friends inspired by wackos on FOX.
My advice is not to engage with these on a political plane. Try and understand the origin of this person's anger and, if they are important to you, try and move away from trying to help them order their thoughts in a political sense. Someone inspired that anger, often uncaring, sometimes abusive parents seem to be in the history of these people. Sometimes one cannot figure out what it is. I have a cousin who is a racist. He is not active in any racist organizations but he was a truck driver and votes GOP. I love him. I leave the room in pain when he quotes O'Reilly, Hannity etc...These guys teach how to speak with enough minimal cover the dog whistle racism a working class guy usually doesn't both with. I drove a cab many years and don't care to be so politically correct as to accept that these people are unfairly branded as racists. You might say I call a spade a spade. I love my cousin but I am sorry for the unhappiness in him and I think I can't reach it.
Accept what you cannot change, love America and what it can be---what it is meant to be and respect all your neighbors. Be happy and kind and you will maybe inspire some young people to be the same.
I understand you, my friend, and I have also wrestled with this. Crazy , angry friends inspired by wackos on FOX.
My advice is not to engage with these on a political plane. Try and understand the origin of this person's anger and, if they are important to you, try and move away from trying to help them order their thoughts in a political sense. Someone inspired that anger, often uncaring, sometimes abusive parents seem to be in the history of these people. Sometimes one cannot figure out what it is. I have a cousin who is a racist. He is not active in any racist organizations but he was a truck driver and votes GOP. I love him. I leave the room in pain when he quotes O'Reilly, Hannity etc...These guys teach how to speak with enough minimal cover the dog whistle racism a working class guy usually doesn't both with. I drove a cab many years and don't care to be so politically correct as to accept that these people are unfairly branded as racists. You might say I call a spade a spade. I love my cousin but I am sorry for the unhappiness in him and I think I can't reach it.
Accept what you cannot change, love America and what it can be---what it is meant to be and respect all your neighbors. Be happy and kind and you will maybe inspire some young people to be the same.
"That the Far Right thinks anyone could be both a Nazi and a Socialist shows again their total cluelessness. "

This might seem a bit pedantic, the doesn't 'Nazi' stand for 'National Socialism'--in which case, being a Nazi and a Socialist wouldn't constitute a contradiction? I'm not so interested in defending the Far Right, but if you're going to brandish such intolerance in the face of hints that somebody doesn't 'have a clue'..
Of course, practically no one thinks of Nazi Germany as a socialist state. & you probably don't consider Socialism to be totalitarian by its nature, so could could the Nazis have been Socialists? Let me cross-reference something here: http://www.oliverwillis.com/2010/03/07/a-disqualifying-passage-no-nazis-were-not-socialists/

Note this part:
"'remember the Nazis called themselves the National Socialist Party'

Whenever somebody writes this, you should instantly stop reading what they wrote. Because whoever writes something like that has no clue."

'..has no clue', which is, I note, also your favorite accusation. Give that one a little rest?
While I'm at it, and I am perhaps new at this, but: 'The contradictions continue (like the fiscal conservative call to eliminate budget deficits and cut taxes).'

I don't suppose that it is logically possible to take the position that deficits matter, without this necessarily meaning that they should be rectified by tax increases. What particularly rankles me as usual, is not so much your position(as I could actually go pick on a right winger), as your comportment that you've been reluctantly forced into your political stance by a greater-than average (average wouldn't be much to brag of here, either) respect for logic. You're just too smart to be anything but a liberal. But then again, now I notice you bio--ah, you're a comedian, explains a few things. Trollin IRL, eh? Well, peace out.

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